Resolving the tectonic transition between ancestral North America and the northern Cordillera
Abstract:The northern Cordillera, situated in the Canadian northwest, is one of the most actively deforming regions in Canada and host to the highest earthquake activity in the country. Furthermore, it presents a largely contiguous snapshot through almost 4 Gyr of Earth's history across a zone <2000 km in linear extent. Deformation is thought to be driven by tectonic forces transferred from the Alaska-Pacific plate collision eastwards to the Cordilleran Deformation Front (CDF), where the westward edge of the Canadian Shield acts as a rigid backstop. Past studies in the southern Yukon indicate a sharp transition into the craton underlying the CDF and evidence of craton growth through shallow subduction. Further north the proximity of the craton edge to the CDF remains largely unresolved; based on studies of the southern Cordillera and Alaska, significant variations in lithospheric architecture are expected. Additionally, significant seismicity is observed further north off the Beaufort Shelf; however, its relationship to the regional stress fields and associated tectonic forcing is unclear.
Despite the high seismicity levels across, detailed study of this region has been limited by insufficient coverage of seismological infrastructure, hindering resolution in past models. With the deployment of the USArray Transportable Array in Alaska over the last several years, combined with regional arrays such as the Yukon-Northwest Seismic Network (YNSN), Banks Island Seismic Network (BISN) and Mackenzie Mountains Experiment, new studies will leverage these datasets enabling more detailed imaging of the structure and seismicity across the region. Here we present a new high-resolution, vertically polarized shear speed and azimuthal model of northwestern Canada and Alaska, constrained by vertical component seismogram fits computed using the Automated Multimode Inversion of Surface, S, and multiple-S waveforms. With this new model, we aim to address key questions relating to the dynamics of the northern Cordillera, including how far west the craton edge extends at depth, in addition to the crustal thickness, velocity structure, and pattern of crustal fabrics around major faults throughout the region.